Celebrating and conserving the ecological richness of California's grasslands

Identifying Grassland Species

Quick Tip for Grasslands: Field-Identifying Native Grass Seedlings

From: Bryan Young, 2011, Grasslands, Vol 21 (2):3

Tip #1: Destructive Sampling

Seeds are often easier to distinguish than seedlings. In the days or early weeks following seedling emergence, use a knife blade to extract the seedling from the ground, along with a cubic inch or so of soil. Carefully, remove soil from the seedling roots.

At the point where the radical (primary root) first emerges from the seed, you will often find that the seed is still attached to the seedling. If yo recognize the seed then you will know your seedling. This technique works best on larger-seeded species. 

Tip 2: Reference Planting

Save a handful of seeds from your grassland restoration project. Sort your seeds by species. Using a separate container for each species, plant your seeds in weed-free potting soil. When your restoration project receives its first germinating rain, it is time to water your test containers, and grow your reference plants. Ideally, your reference plants will grow at a similar rate to your plants in the field. You can bring your containers to the field to help you develop a search image that will help you develop a search image that will allow you to quickly identify your desired species from the weeds. 

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